There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to keep you feeling rested, refreshed and re-energised the next day. Unfortunately, several things interfere with our rhythm and prevent us from getting that much-needed quality sleep, leaving us feeling drained, tired and irritable the next day. According to the experts, this lack of quality sleep is responsible for a host of health issues, from chronic fatigue to weight gain and high blood pressure.

Maintaining good sleep hygiene is the best way to prevent all of these problems. Here are five steps that go towards maintaining good sleep hygiene and getting a good night’s sleep:

Step1: Maintain A Regular Sleep And Wake Pattern
The body’s sleep-wake alternating cycle is control by an internal ’24-clock’ within the brain. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time everyday helps to settle the body clock so you feel sleepy at around the same time every night and fully awake and alert when you wake up and through the day. This is one of the most essential components of good sleep hygiene. Napping through the day can also disturb your normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness and is best avoided.

Step 2: Improve Your Sleeping Environment
You are more likely to get a good night’s sleep if your bedroom is conducive to sleep. This means creating an environment that is comfortable, restful and relaxing. It’s not too difficult to achieve. Few things you can do to create a sleep–conducive bedroom are:
• Use a comfortable mattress that offers good lumbar support and is not too soft or too hard.
• Put up drapes that will eliminate as much light as possible and darken the room sufficiently.
• Block out all distracting noises. If you cannot control external noises such as barking dogs or road traffic, buy a pair of earplugs.
• Make sure your bedroom is at the right temperature – neither too hot nor too cold. A cool bedroom usually works best.

Step 3: Avoid Stimulants Close to Bedtime
Stimulants cause arousal or wakefulness, which is the exact opposite of what you want to achieve. To induce a state of restfulness and sleepiness, experts recommend avoiding stimulants of all types at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. This includes chocolates and all caffeinated drinks – coffee, tea and sodas. Alcohol leads to disruptive sleep too and is best avoided close to bedtime.

Step 4: Avoid Any Vigorous Exercise Routines At Bedtime
While exercise does promote good sleep, indulging in any vigorous exercise routine close to bed time will stimulate you and keep you awake. To help initiate a restful night’s sleep, spend some time doing some form of relaxing exercise such as yoga.

Step 5: Turn Off All Technology
Watching TV or checking your social networking sites just before going to bed are bad ideas. Television and social media are engaging mediums that can keep you stimulated and awake. If you have your television in the bedroom, make it a rule to put it off after a certain time at night and keep your computer out of the bedroom when you are heading off to sleep. These two measures can make a huge difference to your quantity and quality of sleep.

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If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, you’re missing out on a lot more than just feeling good in the morning. Getting enough sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and to get the 7.5 to 9 hours sleep that you need a night as an adult, you need to ensure that you’re maintaining a healthy sleeping pattern.

Contrary to popular belief, good sleep is more in your control than you think. Committing yourself to some simple habits prior to sleep, known as “sleep hygiene”, will go a long way to ensuring that your sleep is not only lengthy, but also peaceful. Dr Levi’s Sleep & Snore Centre suggests these five practices to help you get a good night’s sleep.

1. Establish a Pre-Sleep Ritual

By establishing a pre-sleep ritual, you can ease the transition from wakefulness to sleep by “setting” your internal body clock. It’s best to start your pre-sleep ritual about an hour or so before it’s time for sleep. Include activities in your pre-sleep ritual that tell your body and mind that it’s time to wind down, such as:

  • • taking a bath or shower
  • • reading a book
  • • listening to soothing music
  • • undertaking relaxing exercises, or meditation

2. Monitor Your Food and Drink Intake

Avoid going to bed while you’re either hungry or full, and make sure to empty your bladder before settling in for the night. The last thing you want while trying to sleep is to feel discomfort from improper mealtime habits, or having to disrupt your drowsiness with a midnight run to the bathroom.

You’ll also want to avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol prior to sleep. It’s best to cut out the caffeine for four to six hours prior to sleep, and avoid alcohol and nicotine products within three hours of your bedtime. These can act as stimulants that will disrupt your ability to sleep.

3. Control the Lights

Light is a great way to keep your internal clock in check. Try and dim your lights prior to sleep (make it a part of your pre-sleep ritual!), and make sure that you bask in some natural light as soon as you wake to tell your internal body clock that your sleep schedule is on track.

You should also avoid using television, computers, mobile phones, or any electronic device prior to sleep as the bright lights from their displays can interfere with your internal clock. However, we understand that this may be impractical with the hustle and bustle of the modern age, so consider installing software like f.lux to help the transition from day-to-night on your electronic devices.

4. Exercise

Exercise already has some great benefits to your overall health, but it can also promote healthy sleeping patterns! However, due to the chemicals exercise releases you need to ensure that you’re exercising at the right times if it’s to impact your sleep patterns in a healthy way.

Don’t exercise right before sleep. If you do, ensure they are relaxing exercises. Instead, exercise three hours prior to your preferred sleep time, or even earlier. This will help you fall asleep quicker, sleep more soundly, and sleep at the right time.

5. Style Your Room for Sleep

Your environment can have a huge impact on your sleeping patterns. The area that you sleep in should reflect that it’s meant for sleeping, so make sure that your bedroom is a sleep-inducing room. This means that your bedroom should be quiet, dark, and cool, with a comfortable mattress and adequate pillows.

You can also help achieve this with some personal wear, such as earplugs to block out noise or an eye mask to shield your eyes from light.

Getting a good night’s sleep is difficult, but it’s in your control if you commit yourself to ensuring that you have a healthy sleeping pattern ready to go. By keeping with these five simple sleep hygiene tips, you’ll get that healthy sleep and start feeling the benefits in no time!

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